We’ve sped by many times at 55 mph, not paying much attention to the activity along Long Wharf. Paul thought maybe it was a a group of souvenir hawkers or crafters. But when we were casting about in the Elm City on Saturday, disappointed in an art exhibit we drove in for, Paul suggested we park the car and explore before we enter the highway and head home. Wow! It was almost all taco trucks! For-real looking taco trucks, too. Serving up urban realness with a side of grit and a slab on concrete.
There were at least 12 trucks to choose from. Which one is the best? Being caught off guard, without having looked up reviews on Yelp or Chowhound, we had to size up each vendor and gauge the crowd. Just like an Indian restaurant gains credibility when I see patrons who appear to be of Indian heritage, I wanted to see which truck was swarming with “authentic people*”
I wasn’t even particularly hungry, but a snack seemed in order. All the trucks were colorful and flamboyant, except for Sweeny’s hotdogs, which looked a little out of place and attracted almost no attention. Some others were, on second glance, more about Cuban or Puerto Rican food. No panuchos or anything else that suggested Yucatán, and believe me I looked.
It came down, in the end, between Ixtapa and Santa Apolonia. At that moment, the line outside the latter food truck appear comprised of a sensible group whose taste I decided to trust. We were not disappointed by our silent influencers.
We each had a taco al pastor, which in this case came with a small side of potato strips and grilled jalapeños. Garnishes included a mix of beans, which Paul said was delicious. Including a good-sized bottle of water (Poland Spring, not Cristal!) we paid $5.
We looked for a place to eat. We dodged cars to reach the small grassy strip along the harbor, but there were no benches or tables. As the tacos grew cold, and some of the hot sauce sloshed onto Paul’s trousers, we dashed back across the access road to lean against our car. Later, I read on a food blog that you could carry your food under the highway overpass and sneak it into the Ikea cafeteria. That seemed a little extreme to me. I was perfectly happy where I was. If you squinted, the trucks roaring by could have been rides on a carnival midway.
What a wonderful alternative to the typical highway rest-stop serving Big Macs and croissan’wiches. Our money stayed local and the food was delicious, fresh and wholesome.
* “Authentic people” is an in-joke. Years ago, when Stop & Shop started selling sushi prepared on-site, the cashier let us know that actual for-real Asians were rolling the sushi by saying that they were made by “authentic people.” Somehow, the public doesn’t mind non-Italians or non-Greeks making pizza, but some of us absolutely demand Asian representation in the kitchen if we’re eating food associated with China, Japan or Korea.